As I spend more time in the water, I feel that I’m becoming better friends with the energies and moods of the ocean. I am able to read the water pretty well, and get in touch with what is happening; which helps improve my surfing. I’ve realized that I usually prefer low tide, because to me, low tide is kinder (most of the time). My surfing window is limited on weekdays, so I usually have to take what I can get, but I definitely have a different relationship with high tide than that of low tide. The simplest way for me to explain it is this- high tide is a grumpy, bitter old man who works for the state in a job that bores the hell of out him, and even worse-makes him want to hurt others who dare to come into his place of business for some stupid need that he has to attend to. High tide doesn’t want you there and will do anything to get you the hell out as soon as possible, so he can get back to watching bad TV. Once in a while high tide will be in a decent mood and won’t want to spit in your eye. These rare times are simply because high tide is just too damn tired from drinking scotch the night before. He will allow you to enter his office, and he will get you what you need, but don’t expect any smiles or a “Have a nice day.” That won’t be happening. High tide just doesn’t roll that way. Despite outward appearances of being lazy though, high tide is much stronger than you, and could wipe you off the face of the earth if you don’t comply with his rules.
Low tide on the other hand, is a very fit, highly energetic salesperson that welcomes you with such a big smile and giant “Hello, how are you?” that it startles you. She follows you around the store, doting on your every question and need until she is sure you will be walking out with more purchases than you ever intended to buy. Low tide is your temporary bestie (BFF) and only wants to make you happy. Although, she has a dark side. If you piss her off for any reason or snub her because you don’t like her suggestions, low tide will kick your ass out of her store and kindly tell you where you can go (yes, low tide likes to swear). Low tide isn’t a bad person, she’s just trying to do a good job, and wants everyone around her to know it.
When I see that it’s going to be high tide, I usually take my 8’ board and prepare myself for those giant outside sets that start forming so far out in the ocean that I am 82% positive I won’t make it over them, and will inevitably be spun around like a load of laundry when it breaks. I become a deer in the headlights and sit and stare, wasting valuable time trying to decide if I should paddle hard towards the wave or paddle even harder back towards shore to get far enough on the inside that I can surf the soup (whitewater). Those kinds of waves remind me of when I was kid, and I’d be skiing WAY too fast, and try to take a jump, knowing damn good and well that I was about to have a “yard sale” on the mountain. If you’re not familiar with the term “yard sale”, it means I was about to eat major shit and couldn’t do anything to stop it, losing all my gear in about twenty different directions.
High tide sets are finicky, sometimes they are gorgeous, buxom, ridable, and just what I came for. Yet sometimes that gorgeous, buxom, (what I think is going to be rideable) wave never actually breaks until it hits the shore. When I choose to paddle for that kind of wave, I either get the shortest ride in history and have to bail before I hit the beach, or I have to ditch my valiant paddling efforts at the last minute, make a quick hockey-stop, and turn back around (breathless). Another thing I’ve learned about high tide waves is that they are in charge! They are powerful, intense, and the Rulers of the World. The amount of water that is behind just one wave is a reminder that We are very, very small. Frequently I find myself sort of glancing over the wave from behind it before it breaks (because I’ve ditched my efforts to drop into it). The peak looks like a sheer mountain wall, and at the bottom of it there isn’t any water, just raw sea-bottom earth. It’s a short, yet significant moment that humbles me. High tide is a constant reminder that one must have grand respect for the ocean at all times. We are merely guests during visiting hours. It’s a humbling, beautiful thing.
Low tide, as I mentioned before, is a bit friendlier in general. When I see that it’s going to be low tide, I feel like I just bought a ticket to the carnival. All the glorious rides, and colors, and fun is ready to be had. The energy is like a party with tiki-torches, rum punch and sparklers. This, in my humble opinion, is a magical time of the ocean’s cycle. There are of course still elements to be aware of in low tide, and one has to be on-her-toes and have her head-on-straight. Rocks and uber-shallow water can make for some sketchy falls and sometimes unwanted boo boos. Many times, I’ve landed hard on the sandy bottom only to see how close I was to hitting a gigantic rock. Those close calls are good for me though, they remind me that no matter what is going on in the ocean, and how much fun I’m having, the ocean is in charge, and the ocean needs respect.
All in all, whether it’s high tide or low tide, I’m in. I bought my Life-Time Season Pass with no plans on getting a refund. I am up for the punches grumpy ol’ high tide throws, and I look forward to every cocktail party low tide invites me to. High tide, low tide, tomato, tomahto…it’s all good!